“I think it’s a little strange she doesn’t have an ID,” I said as I passed the tenured, buffoonish security guard about the nurse pushing an elderly woman at the Secretary of State (DMV) office downtown the other day.

The “nurse’s” eyes burned into me and he waved his hands dismissively as I passed. She and I had tangled earlier. She was lazy and probably non-credentialed.

She and the security guard were both idiots. But then again, I’d willingly walked into a Bizarro Universe of the Secretary of State’s office to finally comply with the law and update my address on my driver’s license. I’d been meaning to do so since I moved in January, but since I rarely go downtown, it kept slipping my mind.

Passport and gas bill in hand, I wouldn’t be one of “those people” showing up bleary-eyed and bewildered about identification requirements. I had my facts and brought the proper documentation. Maybe this wouldn’t have to be a painful experience.

“I don’t care about your passport, sir. We have your driver’s license. I need another bill to prove your address.” (And he was the nicer of the two attendances.) The other one was an old guy who shrieked for elderly, pregnant or disabled persons to come to the front of his line. (How many people do YOU think said they were pregnant or disabled to get the front of the line?) And he kept trying to draw standard family relationships between people standing in front of him–incorrectly. “Is this your grandma? No? Is this year aunt? No? Your great aunt?” Great balls of fire! It could be a family friend, a teacher, a babysitter, or even a Foster parent. Unless you have probable cause this woman and little girl are involved in a current Amber Alert, just keep the line moving!

When I returned from stepping out to get a signal on my iPad to pull up my electric bill account, the “nurse” was pushing the old lady outside of each of the two lanes where everyone else was queued. But stopped in a place where there was no way around her.

“Excuse me,” I said, assuming “nurse” would push the chair up just a few feet (she had at least twelve feet in front of her). But instead, she released her grip from the wheelchair handles, turned to me, hands raised–I’m sure it’s a position this little delight was used to–as if to say “be my guest.”

“Just go around her!” the guard bellowed at me.

“How?” I replied super calmly and kindly (I’m sure.)

After passing address confirmation muster, I was assigned a random number, reminding me why Jesse White was still the Secretary of State. His name was everywhere, including on the “meat counter” number I’d been given. And I thought “Who would want to have their name associated with this shit show?”

I mean, really, Jesse White? Really?
I mean, really, Jesse White? Really?

It was sitting there when the guard ushered “nurse” and woman over to himself to give them his personal brand of unskilled attention. It was obviously the woman in the wheelchair who was there for some reason, but when the guard asked the nurse if she was carrying any ID, she conveniently didn’t speak English, shrugged and said “no.” A healthcare “professional” in charge of the care of an elderly woman, bring her downtown Chicago didn’t have a purse or a fanny pack. Nothing to carry an ID or a wallet. Like a pocket. Weird.

When my number was called, I reported to window 7 (after kindly informing the guard of my concern for “nurse’s” identification) for another surly encounter. He seemed less impressed by my online account look up, as he copied both my gas bill and electric bill account numbers down. Then again, maybe it’s standard operating procedure to scribble them down on a scrap piece of paper.

The one bright spot was when he informed me I was within the time period when I could renew my license. (It didn’t expire until next year.) Oddly, I had to consider that for a moment. I last renewed it in 2011, just a couple of weeks after Ken died. I went to a different facility and it was a different experience altogether. But I was somewhat in shock, and I remember sort of floating through the whole experience–detached from it. Quite unlike this experience.

The surly attendant said the only test required of me to renew was vision. I opted to go for it. He brusquely motioned me   to the countertop machine adjacent to his station. The kind you press your forehead against to make it work.

“Do you have anything wipe this off with?” I asked, annoyed.

“Nope,” he replied without even looking at me.

Usually very compliant and a taker of the path of least resistance, I felt unable to comply. Not unwilling. Unable. I leaned over to the machine–hand covering my forehead–and completed the required two tests without so much as a disgruntled word from Happy Gilmore.

Thirty dollars later, I was out the door. With a picture I actually liked.

A lot has changed since I renewed my license last time. Then I was still in deeply grieving and only focusing on what was right in front of me. Long lines didn’t bother me. Poor customer service was usually greeted with a smile. The lessons I’d learned about life and death and what was truly important were fresh and clear in my head. My temper’s fuse grew long and damp.

Apparently, it has dried a little. And maybe shortened a tad. I’m not always great at reminding myself to step back, take a breath and focus on something positive.

Much like buying a car, I think it’s difficult to deal with the DMV and not feel like you’ve been screwed over. But this time, I’d won. Then I walked out, checking over my shiny new card and realized that surly had used my complete address–including unit number–which I don’t recall them usually doing, and something I prefer them not to do.

I’d won…ish.

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